The dedication of the new Lower Bucks Vietnam Veterans Memorial brought out more than 350 people to Veterans Memorial Park in Middletown Township Sunday.
“It’s been my pleasure to bring this to life,” said Hulmeville’s Ed Preston. Speaking before the crowd, he told the Vietnam veterans in attendance the memorial was also for them.
“This memorial, in my opinion, is dedicated to all of you to come, see, foster hope, promote healing, see a friend.”
Preston, owner of Bike King Cycling, led the campaign to bring the memorial to reality. As well as being chair of the PA Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation, he also chaired The Wall in Bucks County.
Originally, the scope of the memorial was much smaller. Preston originally wanted to honor 11 men from Penndel, Hulmeville, Langhorne Manor, and Langhorne Borough. But there simply wasn’t enough space.
“It’s very difficult to separate Levittown, Bristol, Falls, Middletown; there’s too many intertwining roads, streams, rivers, and families. So that was impossible,” said Preston. “So instead of being exclusive, we decided to be more inclusive and expand who we thought we could include in our memorial. We ended up with Lower Bucks County.”
The memorial has two main parts. One is a wall with 95 names in honor of those from Lower Bucks who did not come home from Vietnam, whether killed or missing.
“We will never forget your service, your sacrifice, and your suffering,” reads an inscription on the wall.
The other part is a 600 pound bronze statue of a solider. His profile faces the wall, but his head is turned away.
Sculptor Abbe Godwin created the statue, called “In Memory.” Godwin has also sculpted the North Carolina Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the Raleigh state capitol, the statue of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Gardens in Raleigh, and the Stephen Foster sculpture in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
“It is deeply sobering this morning, on this beautiful day, to realize that our freedom to simply gather here and say what we think and feel was bought by the blood and suffering of thousands and thousands of Americans through our nation’s history – leaving families with a lifetime of loss,” said Godwin. “Giving their lives, suffering grievous wounds to their bodies, their minds, and their hearts – all for us, for the freedom that we take for granted every single day.”
The two hour ceremony included a military helicopter flyover and a roll call of both veterans in attendance and names on the wall.
The helicopter flew low over Veteran Highway and made several passes. Ed Preston said the copter coincidentally had a significant connection.
William Herbert McDonnell is just one of 95 names on the new wall. McDonnell was killed in action in 1969 at the age of 19. Preston said the same helicopter was in McDonnell’s company and it is almost certain he flew in it before his death.
Marines Ed Sabol of Falls and George Delia of Bristol, at times emotionally, led the roll call. Those in attendance responded “here.” Sabol rang a small bell for the names on the wall.
Later, veterans shared stories of their friends from Lower Bucks. These friends lost their lives overseas or back home from suicide or the effects of Agent Orange.
Other speakers included Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), former Congressman Pat Murphy, Langhorne’s John Rumsey and Fran Drummond, and local author Jim McComb.
To close the dedication, Jeff Lowe performed a song on acoustic guitar by Jack Murphy. A marine from Croydon, Murphy wrote the piece about himself and a friend in Vietnam.
In all, the new memorial includes 95 names of the fallen and missing from the following municipalities:
- Bensalem Township,
- Bristol Borough,
- Bristol Township,
- Falls Township,
- Hulmeville Borough,
- Langhorne Borough,
- Langhorne Manor Borough,
- Lower Makefield Township,
- Lower Southampton Township,
- Middletown Township,
- Morrisville Borough,
- Newtown Borough,
- Newtown Township,
- Northampton Township,
- Penndel Borough,
- Upper Makefield Township,
- Upper Southampton Township,
- Wrightstown Township.